"Diving off the rocks in Portugal is definitely one of the highlights of the year," says Gary Hunt five-time World Series champion, "it's really bringing it back to the basics. You have to improvise; it's really natural." Diving from up to 28m with no protection other than concentration, skill, and physical control; in less than three seconds reaching speeds in excess of 85km/h, and punctuated by awe-inspiring tricks – that's the essence of cliff diving. Diving directly off the cliff face is a whole different ball game – for the season's most pure stop the planet's finest male and female divers will return to the so-called Princess Ring on Portugal's Azores next Saturday.
A take-off as high as an eight-storey building is what cliff divers call 'playground', where they can challenge and push themselves, and where they launch for an adventurous ride down to the water. But what is it that drives them to make the climb up, and the subsequent long drop down, in the first place?
"Every time I get a chance to jump off a rock, it's probably the best part of my sport to be honest," describes the sport's legendary Orlando Duque (COL), "it's the place that nature created and we're using it in the way that we can, we're changing the angle of the take-off, we're trying to change positions in the air, trying to avoid rocks and that makes it that much more interesting. We are taking our technique, which we learned for so many years, and adapting it to that one specific situation."
A willingness to break barriers? Yes, says Gary Hunt, as a cliff diver you need to be a rule-breaker: "In the sport of competitive diving it's very regulated, and you're told what you have to do; but most of the cliff divers kind of find their own way and do what they want." For the Brit, who rediscovered his winning form in the previous stop, the volcanic crater walls make for the toughest competition of the season. Two victories in this location (2015, 2013) have proven he can do good dives from the rocks as well, but will he once more be the most versatile and adaptable athlete to win in Portugal?
Russia's Artem Silchenko and Steven LoBue from the USA are both previous winners on the volcano but have not yet found their form in 2016. Will the fifth edition see a new winner's face? The season's second winner and current leader of the World Series, Jonathan Paredes of Mexico, is definitely the athlete to watch out for this season. The 26-year-old is eager to extend his lead and will use his diving perfection to score another victory, the first one in this venue.
After last year's huge success, a female 20m-competition will again be held on Vila Franca do Campo islet, offshore from São Miguel. After a historic victory for wildcard Rhiannan Iffland in her first ever World Series appearance in the opener in Texas, the 24-year-old Australian comes to Portugal as the leader. Facing the challenges of this off-the-cliff competition, it might open the door for the more experienced divers, such as two-time Women's World Series champion Rachelle Simpson (USA), who has unfinished business on the Azores after a moderate 5th place in 2015.
When the men and women of elite cliff diving meet on the Portuguese Azores archipelago for the next competition of the World Series, it is back to the roots of the sport: pure diving off a rock face; a magical dream location, with so many spots to dive off the epic old volcanic rock in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Only for the more difficult optional dives will the athletes use the platform construction placed above the ocean.
Watch it Live
This event will be LIVE on July 09 from 11.20 AM (GMT) on www.redbullcliffdiving.com and Red Bull TV. Red Bull TV is available on connected TVs, gaming consoles, mobile devices and more. Find out more at about.redbull.tv
If you miss the event or simply want to watch all the action again, the replay will be available on demand a few minutes after the event.
Note that the live webcast and replay is geo-blocked in the US due to an exclusive broadcast deal with FOX Sports. The event will air on FS1 at 6pm (ET) on August 14